Any winter camping experience?

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  • Anyone out there with experience in winter camping? I mean really cold weather winter camping, 0 to -20 degrees. My son's Boy Scout Troop is planning their next high adventure trip. We are going to Northern Tier Okpik. I've done some winter camping in 20 to 0 degrees and survived but I'm looking for as much information as I can find. Anyone have suggestions for websites to find more info on gear and how to stay comfortable?
     

    willtill

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    May 15, 2007
    17,412
    Yea. In the Army. It sucked. :tdown:

    My idea of camping these days is in a hotel room. :thumbsup:
     

    welder516

    Deplorable Welder
    MDS Supporter
    Jun 8, 2013
    22,057
    Underground Bunker
    I know a guy that does Canada in extreme temps , he is a pro in every way . Has all the gear to survive -whatever . He pulls a sled with his gear and hikes to a DZ . But for me to point you in a direction or to make suggestions i am not your guy .
    I think i would be okay doing it , i more then likely would pick spring or fall . I done 7 days in the Oklahoma wilderness and enjoyed it like no other vacation .
     

    Matlack

    Scribe
    Dec 15, 2008
    8,001
    Sleeping bag properly rated. Get off the ground with a water resistant mat. Actual wool clothing and blankets. Lots of layers. A tent rated for the temps, many people forget this.

    I wouldn't go below 0 until they have done below freezing and then into single digits. Below zero can turn dangerous to deadly quick.

    Personally for those temps I like mummy bags. And I like foam mats over air. Air mats don't provide a resistance to the cold. And everything needs to be rated for those temps. And layers of clothes, wool. I've done long Jon's, wool socks, gloves and knit cap, wrapped in a wool blanket. Change all clothes and dry before bed. You don't want to sweat in those temps in bed. Add layers until they are comfortable, you don't want to sweat. I like wool below my bag and on top. I don't care for the synthetics, wool has for thousands of years been king of cold. A layer of something below the wool, like long Jon's. The winter gear you currently have, probably won't cut it; jackets, gloves, hats, ear, and face.
     

    ohen cepel

    Active Member
    Feb 2, 2011
    4,200
    Where they send me.
    Spent months out like that with no tent below freezing and below 0. Not fun. Can be pretty at times but then the cold brings you back to reality.

    Matlack hits a lot right on.

    Don't sweat. Stay hydrated. Buy the right gear which will not be cheap. I like light weight poly-pro as my base layer as it didn't get me too hot. Discipline to take stuff off or open zippers as needed is key.

    If you're not doing the tent thing figure out the snow shelter/ditch ASAP.
    Bivy sack may be an option.

    Plan for your boots when you take them off. They will be frozen solid in the am if you're not careful and your feet will never get warm in them.

    Change socks a lot.

    Look into stove fuel options, the gas cylinders will sometimes freeze at low temps so you have to keep it in your jacket so it will maybe work. I went with white gas for that reason. Good/reliable stove is key. Have a plan on how to thaw your water out as it will freeze.

    Attention to detail and discipline is key. Don't be in a hurry. Plan your sleep well and get everything right (jug to whizz in at 0300) as a bad night will ruin your day and cause you to make more mistakes which then takes it downhill.

    Will you need skis or snowshoes? That is another issue to address.
     

    sundazes

    Hot Fudge
    MDS Supporter
    Nov 13, 2006
    15,466
    Arkham
    :lol2:

    We've done Sea Base Virgin Islands. It was rough, didn't know if I was going to survive. Week long trip on a sailboat sailing around to different islands and mooring. Then snorkeling into the beach. Northern Tier in winter is 3 days out on the ice sleeping out in the open or in a snow shelter that you build. At least there won't be any bugs.

    My son did the out island adventure (not the wimpy sailboat) 4 years ago and still talks about it.

    I looked at the website for the NT one you are talking about. It says they provide the gear that is needed. So if you haven't already, find out what GEAR means and start from there. The extreme cold gear is expensive as hell.

    Our troop did weekend in western MD when the highs were supposed to be in single digits. Only 3 adults and 3 kids went. No one had the proper gear for tent camping in that weather.

    That said, have fun and report back on the trip. Sounds wild.
     

    Tungsten

    Active Member
    Jan 1, 2012
    5,456
    Elkridge, Gerrymanderland
    Bring a crock pot and bake some apple pie for the kids. Serve it to them right before they go to bed. It will help keep them warm. Make use of warm rocks near a campfire to keep warm all night long (don't be stupid and burn the tent down- use warm rocks, not hot rocks). Pile 10 people into a family tent. Also get some emergency blankets (shiny foil). You will be amazed at what they can do when used as layers, or even are partial layers around the feet in a sleeping bag. You want multiple layers between you and the ground- think tarp/tent/air/foam as a minimum.

    One friend of mine was a surgical nurse and would go camping with the post op recuperative mylar jammies. It would be freezing cold and he would be out in a hammock with just the jammies and a light blanket. He swore he was sweating midway through the night. So those may be worth looking at.
     

    aray

    Active Member
    Jun 6, 2010
    4,999
    MD -> KY
    When I was a kid, and in the Boy Scouts, we did a winter survival camp out in Minot, North Dakota in subzero weather. To this day I consider it one of the dumbest things I ever did. Hurt the whole time.
     

    -Z/28-

    I wanna go fast
    Dec 6, 2011
    10,254
    Harford Co
    Did it in Scouts my share of times. Wear lots of layers and adjust accordingly throughout the day. Being too warm and sweating is as bad as being cold. Staying dry is the most important. Change into dry clothes before sleeping. Stay hydrated. Protect you skin from wind and sun.

    Probably the most miserable winter thing I did was a 20 mile hike on the C&O. Started out rainy and upper 30s and by the time we finished was snowy and in the low 20s. Then spent the night on a windy hill top with windchill around zero.
     

    Pale Ryder

    Active Member
    Jan 12, 2009
    5,278
    Millersville
    Yea. In the Army. It sucked. :tdown:

    My idea of camping these days is in a hotel room. :thumbsup:

    This!

    Take a bunch of the longest lasting chemical hand warmers you can find. Like 8 hour ones. Shake two of them up and toss in your bag about an hour before bed. Alternatively or additionally you could use a hot water bottle too.

    Stay busy and move around a bunch during the day and have dedicated sleep clothing.
     

    nedsurf

    Active Member
    Feb 8, 2013
    2,202
    Tents suck compared to snow caves. Snow is an excellent insulator. A snow cave will stay right around freezing temp.
     

    Combloc

    Stop Negassing me!!!!!
    Nov 10, 2010
    5,622
    In a House
    Sleeping bag properly rated. Get off the ground with a water resistant mat. Actual wool clothing and blankets. Lots of layers. A tent rated for the temps, many people forget this.

    I wouldn't go below 0 until they have done below freezing and then into single digits. Below zero can turn dangerous to deadly quick.

    Personally for those temps I like mummy bags. And I like foam mats over air. Air mats don't provide a resistance to the cold. And everything needs to be rated for those temps. And layers of clothes, wool. I've done long Jon's, wool socks, gloves and knit cap, wrapped in a wool blanket. Change all clothes and dry before bed. You don't want to sweat in those temps in bed. Add layers until they are comfortable, you don't want to sweat. I like wool below my bag and on top. I don't care for the synthetics, wool has for thousands of years been king of cold. A layer of something below the wool, like long Jon's. The winter gear you currently have, probably won't cut it; jackets, gloves, hats, ear, and face.


    I've been camping in these conditions for about thirty years now and was going to reply to this thread in detail but Matlack already did it for me. The above is all you need to know.
    The only thing I will add is that you don't need all the modern high tech crap. Don't let anyone tell you that you do. (Matlack obviously understands that) What you do need is knowledge and common sense. With those things, discipline and the acceptance that a little discomfort is inevitable, all you have to do is go do it a few times and you'll soon have all the experience you need.
     

    Dave MP

    Retired USA
    Jun 13, 2010
    10,168
    Farmland, PA
    Tents suck compared to snow caves. Snow is an excellent insulator. A snow cave will stay right around freezing temp.
    THIS!


    My scout troop built and camped in igloos on the side of Mt. Rainier (A long time ago in a state far far away). As I recall, we were very comfortable with only the light and heat from a single candle.
     

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